Powerful Grapes

Grapes are one of my favorite snacks.  I like the black and red grapes.  The green ones are just a little sour for me. This popular fruit is packed with a lot of important nutrients. Apart from the fruit of the grape plant, the seeds are also beneficial for health as they help reduce swelling and prevent eye diseases caused as a result of diabetes. Grape seed extract also has a high antioxidant content.  Due to their high nutrient content, grapes also play an important role in ensuring a healthy and active life.

Grapes are a type of fruit, botanically a berry, that grow in clusters of 15 to 300 on woody vines, and can be crimson, black, dark blue, yellow, green, orange, and pink. "White" grapes are actually green in color, and are evolutionarily derived from the purple grape.  Mutations in a couple of genes in the grape prevent the color from forming which would make them purple. 

Grapes increase the nitric oxide levels in the blood, which prevents blood clots. Therefore, grapes are an effective way to reduce the chances of heart attacks. Additionally, the antioxidants present in grapes prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which blocks the blood vessels and is the main contributor to various coronary conditions. Grapes also have high a number of flavonoids, which give grapes their color along with being powerful antioxidants. The two main types of antioxidants in grapes are resveratrol and quercetin, and these negate the effects of free radicals that threaten the body and stimulate LDL cholesterol’s harmful effects on arteries. Also, these two antioxidant flavonoids act as a clean-up crew to reduce platelet clumping and filter toxins out of the blood.

Light and white grape juice supplements the iron content in the body and prevents fatigue according to a study by doctors Ghosh and Scheepens. Anemia is a real problem for many people myself included, and eating grapes can help keep iron and mineral levels balanced in the body. A lack of iron can make you sluggish and affect the efficiency of the mind since iron is an essential mineral that impacts a number of bodily functions.  However, dark grape juice might not give an iron boost and may actually decrease iron levels.

Grapes have been found to have strong anti-cancer properties due to the anti-inflammatory effect of resveratrol, which is found in the skin of grapes. It is particularly effective in reducing the chances of colorectal and breast cancer. The anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in grapes have properties of an anti-proliferate and can inhibit the growth of cancer-causing agents. The pigments contained in grapes enhance the overall immunity of the body to a wide range of diseases.

Grapes, having a high water content, can substantially reduce the acidity caused by uric acid by inducing urination. They also help eliminate uric acid from the system, thereby reducing the stress and pressure on kidneys. The hydrating power of grapes is also high, which increases the moisture present in the lungs and reduces asthmatic events.  Grapes are a wonderful source of micro-nutrients like copper, iron, and manganese, all of which are important in the formation and strength of the bones. Manganese is an extremely important element in the body, which aids in protein metabolism, collagen formation, and nervous system functioning.  The high levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A in grapes give a healthy boost to many of your organ systems, particularly your immune system. This means less chance of coming down with common colds, as well as more serious health issues.

Grapes are the hardest of the berries to know when they are actually ready to pick.  Even if they are the right color (providing you know what color they are supposed to be), they can sometimes take an additional 2-3 weeks to be at peak ripeness.  You can help figure it out by paying close attention to the grape.  First, the color should be deep and rich and fairly uniform all over.  They grapes should be plump and feel firm and juicy to the touch.  You can cut them in half and look at the seed color.  A ripe grape will have brown colored seeds.  However, taste is one of the best indicators of ripeness.  The grape should sweeter than tart.  Pick up some grapes this weekend and meet me in the kitchen for a few recipes using grapes you might not have considered before. 

Orange-Drizzled Grape Tartlets

1 16.5oz tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough

1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened

½ cup confectioners' sugar

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

1½ cups seedless red grapes, halved

¼ cup orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut cookie dough into twelve slices, about 3/4 in. thick. Place slices on prepare baking sheet, pat each slice to form 1/2-in.-thick circles. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until blended. Spread over cookie crusts. Top with grapes.  In microwave-safe dish, microwave marmalade, covered, on high 15-20 seconds or until warmed. Drizzle over grapes.

Recipe adapted from tasteofhome.com.

 

Chimichurri Shrimp Skillet

2 cups uncooked instant rice

3 cups packed fresh parsley sprigs

½ cup olive oil

2 Tbsps. lime juice

2 tsps. minced garlic

2 tsps. red wine vinegar

1½ tsps. ground cumin

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp pepper

1lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup chopped yellow pepper

1 medium onion, chopped

1½ cups seedless red grapes, halved

Cook rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, in food processor, combine parsley, oil, lime juice, garlic, vinegar, cumin, salt, oregano and pepper.  Cover and process until blended. In large skillet, sauté shrimp in 1/4 cup parsley mixture for 3-4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Remove and keep warm. In same skillet, sauté yellow pepper and onion in 1/4 cup parsley mixture until tender. Stir in shrimp, rice, grapes and remaining parsley mixture and cook over low heat until heated through.

Recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com.

 

Virgin Grape Mojito

8 mint leaves

Handful of grapes, chopped in half

2oz lime juice

2oz sugar simple syrup

Splash of lemon lime soda

Ice

Add ice to shaker, mix leaves, lime juice, simple syrup and grapes and shake. Add soda to your taste and shake again.

Note: Simple syrup is easy to make.  Take equal parts sugar and water (1 cup of each for example) and heat in small saucepan until sugar has dissolved.  Let cool completely and store in airtight container.  It’s great for mixed drinks, cakes, and as a sweetener like in your tea or coffee.  You can also purchase this from the store.

 

Chicken Salad

2 cups cooked shredded chicken

1 cup grapes, halved

cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 green onion, chopped

cup buttermilk

cup mayonnaise

2 tsps. lemon juice

¼ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried parsley flakes

½ tsp pepper

Pinch salt

In medium bowl, whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk, lemon juice, garlic powder, parsley, salt and pepper until well combined. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well to coat.  Taste and adjust seasoning or mayonnaise to taste.  I put mine in pita bread, but croissants and hoagie rolls are great options too!